Update your packing list right after your trip

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For the last few years, my family has used a spreadsheet packing list to prepare for our annual trip to Walt Disney World.  The list has served us well, and apparently others are also fans of this approach.

This year, I decided to take it a step further.  Upon returning home, I wanted nothing more than to return everything to its rightful place in our home, as fast as possible.  That is my typical MO – once the trip is over, it’s over.  There is no reason to drag out the unpacking longer than necessary and clutter our home.  Except, of course, if you want to be even more efficient when packing for the next trip.

So this time, I kept the suitcases in the kitchen, grabbed the printed spreadsheet, and painstakingly reviewed every single item to determine if it should remain on the list.  This took a few days because I had other things to do of course, which meant I had to live with visible piles during this unpacking purgatory period.  I had to remind myself the small sacrifice of temporary disorganization would have a worthwhile return on investment.  It wasn’t easy, but some deep breaths got me through!

This is how I executed the update of our list:

  • I checked off those items on the list that were actually used.  Paring down our packing over the years paid off – we used nearly everything we brought.
  • I made a note of items we didn’t use but should still pack for future trips – such as most of the first aid kit contents.  (I actually evaluated every first aid kit item – EVERYTHING we brought.)
  • I asked my family members to announce anything we did not pack that they wish we had.  Only a few items were mentioned.
  • Finally, I reviewed my written notes and transferred the findings to the electronic spreadsheet.  There were a number of insights I added to my Comments column, such as:
    • Doing laundry in the early evening nearly guarantees available machines.
    • Certain bags are better for carrying our belongings in the parks.
    • We brought way too much sunscreen.  I specified exactly how much we used – and next time we’ll bring a bit more than that.
    • Every year we bring light-up accessories that are Disney-themed, and every year we forget to bring them to the parks OR we bring them to the parks and forget they are in our bag.

I learned that there is much opportunity for packing analysis to go way deeper than even I had considered. No need to go overboard, though.  I’ve drawn the line at identifying specific articles of clothing, for example, and instead will stick with indicating how many outfits and what type.  I don’t want the packing to take longer than the trip itself!  Thanks to our streamlined list, next year’s Disney adventure will be more focused on what we are going to do than on what we are going to bring.